YMCA Camp Onyahsa Resident Program: Interim Covid Mandate from NYS Department of Health (6/16/2021)

YMCA Camp Onyahsa Resident Program: Revised Covid Information (6/14/2021)


Dear Campers and Parents:

Thank you for registering your child with YMCA Camp Onyahsa’s Summer 2021 Resident Camp. We continue to navigate the fluid Covid environment; updating our policies to reflect revised regulations from the New York State Department of Health, under whose auspices the Camp receives a permit to operate, and our own experience with the pandemic this summer. Here are our regulations and procedures for sessions starting after June 20, 2021.

The NYS DOH allows for PCR (laboratory) Covid testing within 72 hours prior to arrival at Camp for non-vaccinated camp participants as a prerequisite to attendance. However, we have found this procedure to be potentially expensive and inconvenient, while results are not always guaranteed in time for Camp check-in. Therefore, we are recommending that anyone who is eligible to become fully vaccinated by their start of Camp do so, but if this is not possible that they instead undergo a rapid antigen test for Covid upon arrival at Camp at no charge

To make this procedure viable, we will assign you a very specific check-in time for your Sunday arrival, and ask that you remain at your vehicle until called to the Sheldon Hall porch for the antigen (nasal swab) test. Please have all unvaccinated persons in your party remain at least six feet from other households and don face masks when indoors.  One parent may accompany a single child at a time for the outdoors test. Please plan to await the result, available in fifteen minutes, near the test site, but physically-distant from other households. Please bring umbrellas in case of rain as we need to refrain from allowing large indoor gatherings.

A negative test will be required for the camper to be fully registered and remain in Camp. If a camper tests positive, they may take a re-test, but if the second antigen test also shows positive, the camper will need to depart from Onyahsa for a more reliable PCR (off-site) test, reassignment to a later session, or a full refund. Please note that a PCR test taken at an urgent care facility will not have results until 24-48 hours after the procedure. We can assist with Monday morning testing appointment(s) at the Chautauqua Center in Jamestown, which will provide results within an hour; in either case the camper will unfortunately miss some of the Camp session.

If the rapid test is negative, the camper may remove her or his mask if he/she wishes. Masking will be minimal during the Camp session; but required (for vaccinated and unvaccinated persons) in the event of large indoor gatherings or other unscheduled activities that present a risk of respiratory infection, such as rainy days when indoor activities are necessary and physical-distancing is difficult.  Vaccinated campers and staff are asked to wear masks at this time in solidarity with others (generally those too young for vaccination, so that we can meet the Camp’s ideal of equality). Again, mask-wearing will be minimal due to the testing and other Covid-mitigation protocols (distancing, pod co-horting in small pods or “stable groups,” enhanced ventilation, and etc.)

To smooth this challenging process, please semi-quarantine your child for ten days prior to arrival at Camp and monitor them for signs of Covid. If the child exhibits symptoms, please attempt to contact us prior to arrival; with late in the preceding week an ideal so that we can allow campers on the waiting list to attend.  Full refunds or re-assignments later in the summer will be granted.  Likewise, prevent your child’s interaction with unvaccinated, vulnerable persons for ten days following their Camp experience. Moreover, if your child develops Covid within ten days of departing Onyahsa, please contact us so that we can quickly inform public health officials to enable rapid and accurate contact tracing.

We take the Covid risk very seriously, especially due to the risk of new highly communicable variants, and will implement physical-distancing, enhanced ventilation, program modifications, and occasional mask-wearing (infrequent, as needed), within our primarily outdoor program. Moreover, we long ago decided to reduce our capacity to 50% to enable low-social-density camping.

We ask that your camper bring a box fan to Camp for increased cabin ventilation, a king-sized sheet to drape over the top bunk to create a bed curtain for their lower bunk, and a facial mask (for minimal use, regardless of vaccination status.).  Any participant who prefers to wear a mask more often may do so without stigmatization. All other measures are programmatic in nature; we can handle them easily at Camp and still “bring on the fun.”   

Thank you for your understanding and patience as we work together through this challenging period to safely provide our kids with the summer they need and deserve!


Jon O’Brian,

Camp Director